LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – A day after rain washed away the 2013 season opener, Mother Nature was not a factor on Friday. The Gwinnett Braves’ bats in the fourth inning, however, were.
Gwinnett scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth frame and held on to win their home opener over Charlotte by a score of 5-4 at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, GA on Friday. LHP Sean Gilmartin – Atlanta’s fourth-best prospect, as rated by Baseball America, allowed one run on six hits over five innings to earn the win.
Charlotte (0-1) got on the scoreboard first and did so in the top of the second inning thanks to catcher Josh Phegley. The Rawlings Gold-Glove award-winning backstop launched the second pitch he saw for a solo home run to make it a 1-0 Charlotte lead. Phegley hit .382 with one home run and nine RBIs last year during the month of April (19 games).
Knights starter Zach Stewart (0-1, 9.00) was in control over the first three innings of the game, but ran into trouble in the fourth. Braves shortstop Tyler Pastornicky began the inning with a double and then scored on an RBI single by Joey Terdoslavich. Back-to-back singles by Ernesto Mejia and Blake De Witt followed to load the bases for Gwinnett with no outs in the inning.
After a mound visit, Stewart got Todd Cunningham to ground into a forceout, but the bases were still loaded with just one out.
Three batters later, after another run crossed the plate on an Joe Leonard RBI single, Matt Pagnozzi broke the inning open with a two-run single to make it a 4-1 ballgame.
The Knights later tacked on a run in the top of the sixth inning when University of South Carolina product Steve Tolleson homered off of Gwinnett reliever Cory Rasmus.
The G-Braves added one more run on a Pastornicky double in the seventh inning to make it a 5-2 game. That run proved to be the game-winner as a late-inning rally by the Knights fell just short. First baseman Seth Loman’s two-run double in the top of the eighth inning was Charlotte’s last scoring outburst of the game. Loman finished the game 3-4 with a team-high two RBIs.
Stewart took the loss for Charlotte after allowing four runs on eight hits over four innings pitched. It was his first start with the Knights since July 31, 2011, when he allowed three runs over 6.1 innings in a loss to the Durham Bulls. Relievers Jhan Carlos Marinez (two innings) and David Purcey (one inning) were sharp over a combined three scoreless innings.
The two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday with first pitch set for 5:05 p.m. in game one. Both games will be seven-inning contests.
RHP Andre Rienzo is the scheduled game one starter for the Knights, while Gwinnett will go with RHP David Hale. After a short intermission, the two teams will play game two of the twin bill. RHP Tony Pena Jr. (Knights) and LHP Daniel Rodriguez (G-Braves) are set to start the second game.